July 15 (Reuters) – North Korean and U.N. Command officers held talks on Thursday on the sinking of a South Korean warship in an amiable mood, agreeing to continue dialogue, after Pyongyang had issued threats of war, officials said.
“The atmosphere was very amiable,” said one officer who attended the meeting by five North Korean officers and 11 from the U.S.-led U.N. Command that oversees the Korean War truce. “There were a lot of smiles and a few laughs,” he said.
The meeting was largely about the mechanics of another yet to be scheduled meeting between generals from the two sides, he added.
Another official said the talks were held without outbursts or lengthy and angry arguments by the North attacking the South or the United States.
A joint team of investigators involving military officers and civilian experts from South Korea, the United States and Sweden in May accused the North of launching a torpedo attack on the South Korean corvette Cheonan in March, killing 46 sailors.
North Korea has denied involvement, threatening war against the South for the accusation that it said was a fabrication by Seoul aimed at political gains.
The U.N. Security Council last week condemned the attack but did not directly blame the North.
North Korea first rejected a call by the U.N. Command to meet and discuss any violation of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. It later changed its position and said it would accept such a meeting, after Seoul rejected its proposal to send a military team to inspect the sunken ship.
North Korea at the weekend said it was willing to return to nuclear talks with regional powers that it had boycotted for more than a year. Experts said the North was trying to put the Cheonan incident behind it by offering to talk.
South Korea and the United States reacted with scepticism, saying the North must show it is genuinely interested in easing tensions, first by apologising for the ship incident.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will meet with their South Korean counterparts in Seoul next week to discuss strengthening security ties. (Reporting by Brett Cole and Jack Kim; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)